Tourism Tofino and Tofino’s municipal council are looking to get along a little better in 2017.
The two sides butted heads last year, as council saw Tourism Tofino’s estimated $1.2 million budget and objected to how little of it would be spent in town with the majority of the funds being gobbled up by marketing campaigns aimed at attracting more visitors.
Tourism Tofino is funded by the Municipal Regional District Tax, formerly known as the Additional Hotel Room Tax, which is paid by visitors and collected by Tofino’s fixed roof accommodation providers.
A request from Tourism Tofino to raise that tax from 2 to 3 per cent was approved by the province last year and Tourism Tofino plans to put the increased revenue towards building a new, roughly $2 million, visitor centre at Cox Bay.
Tofino’s council had to sign off on the tax increase, which will take effect in June, and the conversation led several councillors to question how much is too much in terms of the number of visitors Tofino could handle while noting the discrepancy between Tourism Tofino’s marketing budget and the district’s Resort Municipality Initiative coffers that pay for the infrastructure needed to cater to those tourists.
During a presentation to council last week, Tourism Tofino’s general manager Kirsten Soder suggested 2016’s battles will be 2017’s success stories as the conversations between council and her organization would produce results.
“This has been an incredible year of very productive dialogue between the district of Tofino and Tourism Tofino, particularly between our staffs,” Soder said. “While we’re always working very hard to demonstrate our value to the community, beyond just attracting visitation and investment, I trust that you’ll see more of these tangible results happen this year.”
She said Tourism Tofino has looked through Tofino’s Official Community Plan, Tourism Master Plan and Festival and Events Strategy searching for ways to improve its local support.
“We’ve shifted some of our past, more traditional destination marketing efforts into new areas of destination development and industry and stakeholder support,” she said. “We’re going to dedicate 20 per cent of our entire marketing budget to festival and event messaging.”
She added Tourism Tofino is getting ready to unveil a revamped website in the fall that will include a Visitor Etiquette Guide currently under construction to combat negative interactions between locals and tourists.
“That’s going to align well with the district and community priorities and assist in educating visitors about their role in respecting this place and our community values,” she said.
“Some, likely a bit more controversial issues, like parking, illegal camping and pets on leashes, are being built into a dedicated campaign and portal for 2017-2018 in conjunction with the website relaunch.”
She added the guide’s messaging would be carefully presented.
“We really want to approach this right; with humour, high quality video content, approachable voice and a holistic view to respecting the community and all of our quirks and challenges, as opposed to isolating one issue or problem,” she said. “We will support local campaigns like Every Drop of Water Counts, where it’s appropriate, mainly on social media for the time being. But, we’ll prefer to roll all these concerns into a dedicated campaign which, we advise, will have more engagement, local buy-in and more impact overall.”
Tourism Tofino is also putting together a $50,000 visitor intercept survey that, Soder said, would help guide future marketing strategies.
“This is not only going to give us and the communities a definitive answer to the age old question about how many people visit here in a year, but it’s also going to provide additional layers of information about visitor satisfaction and motivations that’s going to assist in economic development, infrastructure planning and ongoing baselines to support public investment as well,” she said.
She said Tourism Tofino is focusing on two, key “visitor-facing” campaigns this year, both of which are collaborations with other communities: a Real West Coast campaign, shared between Tofino, Ucluelet, Parks Canada and Port Alberni, and a Share Vancouver Island campaign, shared between Tofino, Nanaimo, Sooke and Black Ball Ferry Line.
“Our traditional, seasonal-themed campaigns around whales, and food and beach and surf and storm watching, will be centred around event marketing, and will be mainly digital, while we focus investment and our human resource energies on our other major projects; mainly the website related content development, the research project and the [new visitor centre at Cox Bay],” she said.